(Masters Chemical Society, 2015)
When you’re buried, finally in the dirt, and a last word is spoken over your grave, you can rest. You can let go of Earth. Let go of society, of its bleak affectations and numbing consumption. Someday, in the future, your gravestone will wear down to a pebble and any remnant or sign of your passing will be erased. All that will remain are your burial rites drifting through time on the wind, words intermingling with specters as the only witnesses to the “rotting future metropolis,” all that’s left, while nature regains its foothold over humanity. The priest said it best, once: ashes to ashes, dust to dust. He didn’t know he meant it for everyone, and everything.
Hollowfonts returns with Black Brass (I reviewed 2014’s XLVIII), a tape commemorating the impossibility of existence and the struggle against and succumbing to the encroaching darkness. If you are expecting a light mood, in any way, I hereby release you from reading the rest of this review! And it’s weird, really – Michael J. O’Neal shouldn’t be so down all the time, because he lives in Tampa, Florida, the land of friggin sunshine (I should know, I’m on the Atlantic side – Jacksonville, represent! … you get it), but if he’s got a bone to pick with this side of the plane of existence, we can allow a little bit of freedom to explore those feelings. Can’t we? I can. I am.
Look, first of all, what you need to know about Black Brass is that it’s a weighty tome – if it was given a molecular designation and placed on the Periodic Table of Elements, it would be a heavy metal. Take those deep, soul-searching meanders through the shadows of meaninglessness, and soundtrack it by popping Black Brass into your Walkman. Four dirges of crushing metaphysical intensity await. O’Neal embellishes his industrial wastescapes with found sound from sources ranging from strings and scrap metal to “recordings from an abandoned tile factory and a condemned pier.” Guitar, synthesizer, and percussion round it out.
Still, even though I got “all dark” on you there for a bit, Black Brass is immensely listenable. Its four track titles are steeped in repercussion, as the violence that pervades modern consciousness has gotten the best of us, and O’Neal plugs it into his tracks. “Reap & Recoil,” “Three to a Cage,” “Luring Militiamen,” and “Warhorn” are mostly all creeping death, filled with tones of utter dread and encroaching apocalypse. And that’s OK. Maybe we can just lean into all that and let the end wash over us. Or maybe, like on “Warhorn,” which closes the album, we’ll regain that fighting sense and stop the madness before it overtakes us for good. Or we can at least celebrate the remeberance of what was. The curtain has fallen, but a heart still beats, somewhere. Maybe it’s yours!
And hey, Happy New Year, you wastes of oxygen! Welcome back, and don’t get too excited.
RIYL: Karlheinz Stockhausen, HolyKindOf, Danny Clay, OverScan